Monday, May 07, 2007

My name is Aldecio and I am 43 years old. Pretty much since ‘88, ‘89 I traveled away from here (siou pelo trecho) to cut sugar cane every year. I worked in Belo Horizonte also. But when I lived there, I also worked cutting sugar cane. And here, every year, I go and return, because here, we pretty much don’t have work. So the only option is to leave here to earn some money. I have always lived with my mother. The time when my mother retired, I left because I needed to help her. Recently she returned to work and so I don’t have to help her anymore. In fact she earns almost twice as much as I do. And now I am making this little house for myself. I am building it, you can see it´s pretty modest.

People from here mainly go to the interior of Sao Paulo. I think this area probably has at least 150 cana plantations. So, generally when people leave here, they don’t all go to the same plantation. So some go to one plantation and others go to other plantations. So last year I was with a group from Araçuaí, in Usina Santa Elena. But people from within this group end up in different places even if they work for the same Usina (plantation). Because Santa Elena is a group…it has 17 usinas...

For our work there, we need to wake up at 4 or 5 am. We have breakfast, grab our packed lunches, pull our clothes together, and leave the lodgings by 6am to go to the fields for work. We finish work at 3:15 or 4pm. But some plantations don’t provide lodgings and you have to go live in the city. [In the city]we have to rent a room, we have to cook for ourselves, and wash our clothes. The lodgings are much better. There we receive everything in our hands, we only have to wash our own clothes. I once worked while I was living in the city. It was much worse.

I have quite a bit of experience in this work. In the beginning it was a bit difficult. But you quickly accustom to the work because there are no secretes, it is mostly your eagerness that helps you do a good job. The first time, you have colleagues who teach you. And, after three days, you already know how.
I chose to cut sugar cane because there was no other option. Here there is no work and also I didn’t study sufficiently to get a good job…so my only option was to cut sugar cane. It is the only kind of work that gives a little bit more money. If you are going to work in construction here, you only get a salary, a minimum wage, even if you are a skilled construction worker. In the plantation, if you work well, you make more than a skilled construction worker, more than a professional.

In all of the lodgings there is a lounge, that has telephone, and we call home and write cards too.
In the near future, I would like to stop this cycle of coming and going. I want to stop.
---God willing, I will have the opportunity to earn a bit more money to let me be comfortable, and then I will stop---because working for others is not easy. We do this kind of work because we need to. It is not good work, no way. It’s not good.

The companies of the plantations come to look for us (recruit us) here. From this month (January) onward they start to get our names and our work cards, and then we will do a medical exam, and in April, they take us away to the plantations. In April there will be a group of more than 30 busses full of people leaving here. Not just from here in the city but from the rural area too.

When the day comes to get the people here, the plantations hire one person from the community that we call “o gato” (the cat). The plantations have many gatos in the region. So the plantation calls the gatos and asks them to start collecting names and cards of workers.

The firms there are prohibited from hiring minors. If the ministry of work sees a minor working, the plantation would get in trouble. There is no way for minors to work. If you have all documents ready in your hand and you are older than 18 yrs old, you can work.
I have friends who took many pictures of them working in the sugar cane. But I never liked to take pictures there, because I think this work is really a lot of suffering. So I don’t have any photos of myself working.

I have a big knife for cutting sugar cane that I have here with me in my house. I think you have already seen one here [because many people have them]. It is a really dangerous tool.

You need protection why you do this work so we use long pants, gloves, glasses. Accidents are dangerous.